With Russell Westbrook perhaps in the best stretch of his career, the Oklahoma City Thunder continue to make a strong case that the Western Conference isn't a two-team race.
Fresh off another triple-double, Westbrook attempts to lead the Thunder to a ninth straight win in Tuesday night's matchup with a Detroit Pistons team that failed its last test from another red-hot opponent.
Though virtually resigned to the No. 3 seed behind Golden State and San Antonio, Oklahoma City (52-22) is building plenty of momentum for the playoffs with its longest winning streak since a 10-game run from Jan. 16-31, 2014. Westbrook has been the catalyst, with the All-Star Game MVP notching his fifth triple-double of the surge with 26 points, 12 assists and 11 rebounds in Monday's 119-100 victory at Toronto.
Westbrook's 16 triple-doubles are the most in a season since Magic Johnson's 17 in 1988-89 and he's nearly averaging one over the streak, posting 20.8 points, 11.1 assists and 9.6 rebounds per game.
''I think it's something I never take for granted but I like winning, so regardless of what the numbers say I like to win the game and make sure my teammates feel good about themselves,” he said.
With Westbrook and Kevin Durant both in top form, the Thunder are shooting 51.1 percent over the streak while eclipsing 110 points in each victory. Durant had 34 points against Toronto after recording 31 on 13-of-20 shooting in Saturday's 111-92 win over San Antonio.
Detroit (39-35) had been in an offensive groove as well prior to Saturday's 112-95 loss to Atlanta. After averaging 110.4 points over five straight home wins, the Pistons were held to 38.6 percent from the field by one of the league's premier defensive teams.
''They played at a level that we couldn't match. I thought it was more about them,'' coach Stan Van Gundy said. ''I didn't come away from that game, like I come from a lot, thinking we weren't ready to play or we didn't try. I think we kept trying to hang in there and hang in there.''
The Pistons, 5-2 on a nine-game homestand and 2 1/2 games up on Chicago and Washington for eighth in the East, have won eight of 10 as the host but have had little recent success in this series. The Thunder have won five straight in Detroit and 12 of the last 13 overall meetings, including a 103-87 victory on Nov. 27 in which Durant had 34 points and 13 rebounds and the Pistons shot 34.4 percent.
Oklahoma City has won the last 12 matchups that Durant has played, and he's averaging 35.3 points over his last four against Detroit. He and Westbrook were both injured in the Pistons' 96-87 road overtime win last season.
The Thunder outrebounded Detroit 58-38 in the previous meeting, limiting Andre Drummond to seven in 33 minutes. Drummond has shot 66.7 percent while averaging 22.3 points over a three-game stretch, however, and is coming off a 19-point, 17-rebound effort on Saturday.
Former Thunder guard Reggie Jackson is shooting just 34.0 percent over his last four and finished 4 of 16 in the Nov. 27 loss, his first game against Oklahoma City since being sent to Detroit at last season's trade deadline.